9 FULL MOONS is a self-destructive romance worthy of Cassavetes

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Raiting: ★★★1/2

That crazy little thing called love. We do crazy things to get it, crazier things still to keep it. Frankie and Lev’s meet cute can’t really be described as such. Smashed together by an aggressive floor filler in a club, it may not be right, healthy or have much chance of working out for these two damaged souls, but the intensity of their mutual attraction is too strong. On the verge of surrender they hold back, checked not by Frankie’s resistance (she’s a floozy who has none) but by the indomitable power of Lev’s restraint, who’s trying to focus solely on his music while driving as a chauffer at night. After Lev (Bret Roberts) leaves the club, hard-partying Frankie (Amy Seimetz) continues to drink and dance herself into oblivion, an easy target for a skivvy artist who rapes her in his car.

But the next day Lev comes back. He can’t get this girl out of his mind. And as for Frankie, she wants to be repaired – specifically by him. Routinely used, abused, and violated by the men in her life, it can’t just be anyone, it has to be Lev, someone strong enough to derail her from her self-destructive course. None of their friends approve of their volatile union, least of all, Lev’s best friend Ronnie (Brian McGuire), an A&R music guy whose recently set his buddy up as the producer of past-his prime country legend, Charlie King Nash’s (Donal Louge) comeback record.

Rarely do on-screen relationships resemble the intangible, rocky realties of real life love without slipping into sentimental melodrama, but the script is so empathetic, the performances so honest, that any questions we have about Frankie and Lev’s unbreakable bond are answered simply by watching them. These two soulmates love each other as much as any two people can, but they do so at different speeds. Frankie’s so far outside herself she doesn’t know who she is and Lev’s so far inside himself he’s barely there at all.

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In what should prove to be a breakout star turn for Bret Roberts (known up to this point for his wicked comedic collaborations with director Brian McGuire), it’s a portrayal restrained to the point of autism but, cognisant of all fives senses, with love, hate and disillusionment playing across Lev’s stony exterior, often all at once. For fast-rising star Amy Seimetz, this is also something of a personal best since directing Sun Don’t Shine. She plays Frankie with such devastating, smokey-eyed vulnerability, she’s almost unbearable to watch.

A drunk who likes to bring the bar home with her, after only a few nights bedding down together in the empty bottle squalor of Frankie’s trough-like apartment, Lev takes their relationship to the next level out of necessity, and has her move in with him. Elated to be playing happy families now that she’s finally found a stable partnership, Frankie wants to celebrate their love and show it off to the world, tumbling further into alcoholism as she does so. For Lev, their love is the soul of his musical collaboration with Charlie King Nash, the final mix tracks, the purest expression of his passionate devotion.

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In both these pursuits there’s a fight for control that each is losing, and director Tomer Almagor’s autobiographical script understands that when you lose control you start grasping – hard enough that you end up crushing and destroying the very thing you’re fighting for. Often, Frankie and Lev aren’t easy to like or relate to, but giving performances that know no obstacles, Roberts and Seimetz have you willing them to pull through.

Not only the best film at this year’s Raindance Film Festival, 9 Full Moons is also one of the best of the year, a relationship-on-the-rocks movie worthy of being talked about in the same breath as Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence. Let’s hope there’s a theatrical release on the horizon.

Vérité Film Magazine was fortunate enough to talk with filmmakers Brian McGuire, Bret Roberts and Robert Murphy about 9 Full Moons when they visited the festival. The interviews have been optimised to be watched full screen at 720p, which can be adjusted in the control panel when the video is played

First published by Vérité Film Magazine on September 30, 2013

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